Bill Kirby

Online news editor for The Augusta Chronicle.

Hunting hilarity in local history

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We are what we pretend to be.

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– Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

The Augusta Museum of History has me on its monthly speakers agenda for next spring, but there’s a challenge.

I was asked to talk about our area’s funniest moments, and history is rarely that humorous. But I’m trying.

Take the civil war. Augusta saw no battles and after the war began to spread the story that they weren’t attacked because famed (and despised) Yankee Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman feared them.

The story grew through much of the 1880s, until Augusta Chronicle editor Pleasant Stovall decided to get the truth from the warhorse’s mouth. He wrote to Sherman and asked, and Sherman answered in perhaps the most famous letter to the editor in Chronicle history. He said he didn’t attack Augusta because he didn’t have to. It suited him just fine that every available man with a gun between him and his objective – the coast – would all collect in one spot, Augusta, and not delay his march. But then, Sherman being Sherman, he offered to come South immediately and burn the town.

“... If the people of Augusta think I slighted them in the winter of 1864 they are mistaken ... with the President’s consent, I can send a detachment of 100,000 or so ... who will finish up the job ...”

Then there was Charles Lindbergh who piloted the first solo nonstop airplane crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in 1927, prompting Augusta to celebrate the achievement uniquely.

“Thousands of Augustans who visit the business district of the city after 2 o’clock,” The Chronicle reported, “will see a series of stunts, one of which will be performed by an Augusta girl . . . swinging from a flying airplane, suspended by a pair of silk stockings.”

The young woman, Agnes Holliman of Wheeler Road, was a 90-pound waitress who earned $50 for her feat.

Silly? Perhaps, but a crowd of 10,000 watched it all along Broad Street that Saturday afternoon.

But the funniest thing I’ve found so far was Augusta’s elaborate celebration of its 200th birthday. In May 1935 Augusta held a weeklong bicentennial extravaganza.

There were pageants, parades, dances and even an official poem. Central to the event was a dramatic re-creation of founder James Oglethorpe’s arrival two centuries before sailing a boat up the Savannah River and greeted by Indians.

Everyone who remembers the event, enjoyed it, but as Augusta’s celebrated historian, the late Ed Cashin, liked to point out, not only did Oglethorpe come by horseback, not boat, but we celebrated the 200th anniversary the wrong year.

Augusta was officially chartered (by Oglethorpe) on June 14, 1736.

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shrimp for breakfast
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shrimp for breakfast 10/15/11 - 09:59 pm
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People wonder why Sherman

People wonder why Sherman didn't attack and burn Charleston the seedbed of secession. Well I'm sure he would have had it been in the North's best interest but when Sherman ws in Savannah the word got to the troops in Charleaton and they high tailed it out of town on Feb. 17th 1864. So in effect it made no sense for Sherman to attack Charleston. There were no troops there so Sherman veered to the north and burned Columbia instead.
There was also a rumor that Sherman had a girlfriend in Charleston and he didn't want her getting hurt in any way. Of course that's just a rumor but a good one at that.

shrimp for breakfast
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shrimp for breakfast 10/15/11 - 10:00 pm
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Another reason Sherman didn't

Another reason Sherman didn't come to Augusta was that he couldn't get tickets to the Masters so he snubbed us.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 10/16/11 - 08:48 am
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Sherman had been stationed in

Sherman had been stationed in Augusta before the war and had a girlfriend here. The race to the sea, bypassing Augusta and Macon made sense because federal ships could meet up with him in Savannah. He went in the most direct route to the coast from Atlanta. After Savannah fell the plan was to bypass Charleston and link up with the federals in North Carolina thus the move north through Columbia which was burned....somehow. It's possible the Conferates accidentally burned it when they were igniting the cotton bales to keep it from the damn Yankees.

seenitB4
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seenitB4 10/16/11 - 09:38 am
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I have a feeling that ole

I have a feeling that ole Sherman had girlfriends all along his route & THAT kept many homes from burning...:)
The weaker sex...hehehh....I laugh everytime I hear that.

seenitB4
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seenitB4 10/16/11 - 09:47 am
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Maybe shrimp should write a

Maybe shrimp should write a book about this route of Sherman....
Could call it "Shrimp for breakfast-champagne for lunch".

shrimp for breakfast
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shrimp for breakfast 10/16/11 - 05:51 pm
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...and Savannah for supper!

...and Savannah for supper!

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